Did you know that if someone dies with unpaid bills like a balance on a credit card account, a family member or close friend will get a call or letter from a debt collector.
A few years ago, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) issued new guidelines related to this subject. The guidelines “widen the universe of people who could receive collection calls or letters”. This makes it very important that anyone receiving such a call or letter knows his legal rights and obligations.
Debt collectors read the obituaries and then check to see whether the person who just died has any surviving relatives. If so, they immediately begin sending out letters or making phone calls and harassing them for whatever is owed.
Rules vary from state to state but, in general, here are a few things that usually apply.
- Family members or friends are not obligated to pay out of their own pockets for debts incurred by a deceased person.
- If a family member or friend has co-signed a credit card or loan application with the now deceased person, that relative or friend is probably obligated to repay the debt.
- If the deceased left a will and the estate is in probate, debt collectors can attempt to collect their money from the assets of that estate.
- Assets that are specifically bequeathed to someone or that were jointly owned by the deceased and another person generally go to that person outside of the estate and are usually not reachable by debt collectors. In the 10 community property states, assets are generally considered joint property and can’t be touched by a debt collector.
What does this mean for you? If someone close to you dies and you are contacted by a debt collector, don’t give that person any information or commit to anything. See assistance from a local credit counselor or attorney to get guidance on how to proceed. Otherwise, you may find yourself paying money to a debt collector unnecessarily.
For more information about settling an estate, go to www.diesmart.com.
We came across a very easy to read and understand infographic. It provides important information about estate and digital asset planning. Although the data is based on a survey done in the United Kingdom, the figures are probably very similar to what would be found if the same survey were done in the United States.
In light of the digital all-encompassing digital world in which we live, it’s especially amazing that almost 75% of people believe that it’s important to be able to view a loved one’s social media presence after their death. Yet less than 5% of those people have used the Facebook and Google tools available to enable this to happen.
Less than 10% of people have made any plans for their social media accounts to remain active after they die and only 3% have made any plans for purchased digital assets.
Only about half of the people queried have shared with anyone the password for their mobile phone or computer.
Digital planning is a critical part of putting your estate plan in place prior to your death. Otherwise, your wishes may not be carried out and, even more importantly, your heirs may not be able to access your online assets. Since no one knows when he or she is going to die, it’s important for everyone to take the necessary steps and put together a legal estate plan now.
For more information about digital estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com or purchase our book ACCESS DENIED: Why your passwords are now just as important as your will.
There’s been a lot of discussion about digital assets and what happens to your bitcoin accounts when you die. When we checked a while ago, we were told that after a certain period of inactivity, your Bitcoin account will disappear and the money you have in it will be gone forever. If you haven’t given your login, password and digital key information to the person(s) you’d like to inherit the money, they cannot access your Bitcoin wallet and they’re out of luck.
Recently, a few companies have tried to address this important issue. One we came across is Bitcoin Estate Plan. Their premise is simple. They automatically deliver bitcoin wallet access instructions to your heirs upon your death or incapacitation. This is accomplished through email, phone and/or a written letter via the postal service. You tell them who you want them to contact and the message you want them to send.
The company “will then email or phone you periodically to confirm that you are still alive. If you do not respond after a specified number of attempts the system will deliver your message to your intended recipient(s) by email, snail mail or phone depending upon which service plan you choose.”
It would be cheaper for you to share the necessary information with your heirs prior to your death. However, if you do, they will have the ability to access your funds at any time. A better option to consider might be a company like Bitcoin Estate Plan. That way, your money won’t disappear when you do.
For more information about digital assets and how to protect them, read our book “Access Denied: Your Digital Estate – Why Passwords Are Now as Important as Passwords”. It’s available at Amazon. Also, check out our website www.diesmart.com.
I read this story in the New York Times a few days ago and it still haunts me.
The Lonely Death of George Bell tells about a man who died alone. No one realized he was gone and there was no one to plan his funeral or settle his estate. This story goes thru the saga of what happened to him, what he left behind and who had to deal with all of it. It’s more like a novella than an article but it’s well worth taking the time to read it. I did and can’t forget it!
For more information about issues related to dying and settling an estate, go to www.diesmart.com.
On Monday, Yahoo Japan announced “Yahoo! Ending”, a program designed to help Yahoo Japan users plan for their death. The search engine, in partnership with funeral services company Kamakura Shinsho, helps Yahoo Japan users make a will, find a grave, and plan their funeral. Once Yahoo Japan confirms the user has died, the service will set up a memorial site, send out digital farewell messages, and delete personal data from Yahoo’s on line system. In the future, Yahoo Ending could be expanded to work with credit card, insurance and other companies to manage a wider scope of personal data left behind when users pass away.
Yahoo Ending answers the question “what happens to your Yahoo Japan digital assets when you die”. Once Yahoo Japan receives proof of death, Yahoo Japan assumes it has the legal authority to delete digital assets created and stored on Yahoo Japan.
In the United States, Yahoo digital assets are in fact part of the estate of the deceased. Before we created our digital life, we stored photos and art in an album or a picture frame. Our emails and text messages were paper letters and notes stored in a file cabinet. When someone dies, the estate representative is required by law to take an inventory of property owned by the deceased and assign a value to the property, including their digital assets. The estate representative is then required by law to dispose of property the deceased owned based on instructions left in a will or a trust, or state intestate laws if the decedent died without a will or a trust. In today’s paper world, estate representatives or beneficiaries must provide documents providing they are managing the assets according to the wishes of the deceased. In a paper world, proof of death does not trigger the automatic deletion or destruction of property owned by the decedent.
The question “what happens to our digital assets” continues to be the subject of legal debate as the internet service providers and the legal infrastructure grapple with the rules and processes for managing and disposing of digital assets that are in fact part of our estate.
We need programs and policies that don’t just deal with the death of the account owner, but also provide a way for trustees and conservators to manage our digital assets in the case of incapacity.
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